Science Enabled by Specimen Data

Moreno, I., J. M. W. Gippet, L. Fumagalli, and P. J. Stephenson. 2022. Factors affecting the availability of data on East African wildlife: the monitoring needs of conservationists are not being met. Biodiversity and Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-022-02497-4

Understanding the status and abundance of species is essential for effective conservation decision-making. However, the availability of species data varies across space, taxonomic groups and data types. A case study was therefore conducted in a high biodiversity region—East Africa—to evaluate data biases, the factors influencing data availability, and the consequences for conservation. In each of the eleven target countries, priority animal species were identified as threatened species that are protected by national governments, international conventions or conservation NGOs. We assessed data gaps and biases in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and the Living Planet Index. A survey of practitioners and decision makers was conducted to confirm and assess consequences of these biases on biodiversity conservation efforts. Our results showed data on species occurrence and population trends were available for a significantly higher proportion of vertebrates than invertebrates. We observed a geographical bias, with higher tourism income countries having more priority species and more species with data than lower tourism income countries. Conservationists surveyed felt that, of the 40 types of data investigated, those data that are most important to conservation projects are the most difficult to access. The main challenges to data accessibility are excessive expense, technological challenges, and a lack of resources to process and analyse data. With this information, practitioners and decision makers can prioritise how and where to fill gaps to improve data availability and use, and ensure biodiversity monitoring is improved and conservation impacts enhanced.

Rahman, D. A., Y. Santosa, I. Purnamasari, and A. A. Condro. 2022. Drivers of Three Most Charismatic Mammalian Species Distribution across a Multiple-Use Tropical Forest Landscape of Sumatra, Indonesia. Animals 12: 2722. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12192722

Tropical Rainforest Heritage sites of Sumatra are some of the most irreplaceable landscapes in the world for biodiversity conservation. These landscapes harbor many endangered Asiatic mammals all suffering multifaceted threats due to anthropogenic activities. Three charismatic mammals in Sumatra: Elephas maximus sumatranus, Pongo abelii, and Panthera tigris sumatrae are protected and listed as Critically Endangered (CR) within the IUCN Red List. Nevertheless, their current geographic distribution remains unclear, and the impact of environmental factors on these species are mostly unknown. This study predicts the potential range of those species on the island of Sumatra using anthropogenic, biophysical, topographic, and climatic parameters based on the ensemble machine learning algorithms. We also investigated the effects of habitat loss from current land use, ecosystem availability, and importance of Indonesian protected areas. Our predictive model had relatively excellent performance (Sørensen: 0.81–0.94) and can enhance knowledge on the current species distributions. The most critical environmental predictors for the distribution of the three species are conservation status and temperature seasonality. This study revealed that more than half of the species distributions occurred in non-protected areas, with proportional coverage being 83%, 72%, and 54% for E.m. sumatranus, P. abelii, and P.t. sumatrae, respectively. Our study further provides reliable information on places where conservation efforts must be prioritized, both inside and outside of the protected area networks, to safeguard the ongoing survival of these Indonesian large charismatic mammals.

González-Bernal, A., O. Rojas-Soto, and E. Martínez-Meyer. 2022. Climatic comparison of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) subspecies in North America using niche-based distribution models and its implications for conservation programs D. Ge [ed.],. Journal of Mammalogy. https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyac066

Abstract The gray wolf, Canis lupus, once inhabited much of the northern hemisphere worldwide; however, persecution drove its populations almost to extinction. In North America, diverse conservation programs have been implemented in the last decades to recover its populations in the wild, many of them guided by the historical distribution of the gray wolf subspecies. Over time, several authors have proposed different subspecies classifications. Nevertheless, most of them are mutually inconsistent regarding the number and distribution of subspecies, creating controversy when implementing conservation programs. This study used niche-based distribution models and cluster analysis to explore the bioclimatic profiles of C. lupus across North America and compare them with different subspecies classifications to identify environmental correlatives that support the proposed designations. Our cluster analysis results indicate that the optimal number of climatic groups was five, designated as Northern, Eastern, Western, Coastal, and Southern groups, with transitional overlap boundaries located at their peripheries, indicating climatic gradients between them and supporting the idea of intergrading zones. The geographic ranges of these groups mismatched to a different extent with all subspecies delimitations. In general, the boundaries of putative subspecies did not match the climatic patterns of North America. Our results may contribute to the recovery programs underway for this carnivore by identifying suitable areas for the release of individuals from specific lineages. New approaches to characterizing the intraspecific variation of the gray wolf should include all evidence available, including genetic, morphological, and ecological information.

Monroy-Gamboa, A. G. 2022. Differences between Northern and Southern Female Coyotes. Western North American Naturalist 82. https://doi.org/10.3398/064.082.0119

The coyote (Canis latrans) has a wide distribution range, spanning boreal forests from the north of the continent to tropical environments in Central America, showing great adaptation and plasticity. Bergmann's rule states that individuals inhabiting colder climates are larger than those in warmer climates. It is suggested that in carnivore species, litter size is influenced by allometric constraints such as maternal body size. The aim of this study is to analyze the relations using correlation between female coyote mass, latitude, and litter size. Using data compiled from the literature, I carried out statistical analyses to correlate female body size, litter size, and latitude for coyotes across their distribution range. The results indicated a soft significant correlation between female body size and latitude, confirming Bergmann's rule. However, no significant correlation was found between litter size and latitude or between litter size and female body size; litter size in coyotes remains roughly uniform across their distribution range.

Espindola, S., E. Vázquez‐Domínguez, M. Nakamura, L. Osorio‐Olvera, E. Martínez‐Meyer, E. A. Myers, I. Overcast, et al. 2022. Complex genetic patterns and distribution limits mediated by native congeners of the worldwide invasive red‐eared slider turtle. Molecular Ecology 31: 1766–1782. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16356

Non-native (invasive) species offer a unique opportunity to study the geographical distribution and range limits of species, wherein the evolutionary change driven by interspecific interactions between native and non-native closely related species is a key component. The red-eared slider turtle, Tra…

Fell, H. G., O. G. Osborne, M. D. Jones, S. Atkinson, S. Tarr, S. H. Keddie, and A. C. Algar. 2022. Biotic factors limit the invasion of the plague pathogen ( Yersinia pestis ) in novel geographical settings P. Kamath [ed.],. Global Ecology and Biogeography 31: 672–684. https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13453

Aim: The distribution of Yersinia pestis, the pathogen that causes plague in humans, is reliant upon transmission between host species; however, the degree to which host species distributions dictate the distribution of Y. pestis, compared with limitations imposed by the environmental niche of Y. pe…

Solovyeva, D., I. Bysykatova-Harmey, S. L. Vartanyan, A. Kondratyev, and F. Huettmann. 2021. Modeling Eastern Russian High Arctic Geese (Anser fabalis, A. albifrons) during moult and brood rearing in the ‘New Digital Arctic’. Scientific Reports 11. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-01595-7

Many polar species and habitats are now affected by man-made global climate change and underlying infrastructure. These anthropogenic forces have resulted in clear implications and many significant changes in the arctic, leading to the emergence of new climate, habitats and other issues including di…

Miller, E. F., R. E. Green, A. Balmford, P. Maisano Delser, R. Beyer, M. Somveille, M. Leonardi, et al. 2021. Bayesian Skyline Plots disagree with range size changes based on Species Distribution Models for Holarctic birds. Molecular Ecology 30: 3993–4004. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16032

During the Quaternary, large climate oscillations impacted the distribution and demography of species globally. Two approaches have played a major role in reconstructing changes through time: Bayesian Skyline Plots (BSPs), which reconstruct population fluctuations based on genetic data, and Species …

Newbold, T., L. N. Hudson, S. Contu, S. L. L. Hill, J. Beck, Y. Liu, C. Meyer, et al. 2018. Widespread winners and narrow-ranged losers: Land use homogenizes biodiversity in local assemblages worldwide H. Morlon [ed.],. PLOS Biology 16: e2006841. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2006841

Human use of the land (for agriculture and settlements) has a substantial negative effect on biodiversity globally. However, not all species are adversely affected by land use, and indeed, some benefit from the creation of novel habitat. Geographically rare species may be more negatively affected by…

Cooper, N., A. L. Bond, J. L. Davis, R. Portela Miguez, L. Tomsett, and K. M. Helgen. 2019. Sex biases in bird and mammal natural history collections. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 286: 20192025. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.2025

Natural history specimens are widely used across ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation. Although biological sex may influence all of these areas, it is often overlooked in large-scale studies using museum specimens. If collections are biased towards one sex, studies may not be representativ…